Anna Montalvo, third from left, joined the March for Life in Connecticut with her two daughters, Alana, 10, and Aliyah, 9. "They're going to hear us," Montalvo said in her speech outside the state Capitol in March 2022. "We're not gonna kill our babies anymore." Yehyun Kim /

Lawmakers have advanced a raft of legislation that would expand access to birth control and maternal health services, while bills that would have required minors to notify their parents before having an abortion did not move forward this session.

The legislature’s Public Health Committee declined to vote on three measures mandating that minors notify their parents when seeking an abortion. Democrats campaigned heavily last fall on a promise to preserve access to abortion in Connecticut while services in other states have been rolled back or are under threat.

“In an era when access is being restricted in other places, we’re trying to do the opposite,” said Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey, D-Fairfield, a co-chair of the committee. “We’re trying to hold firm to people’s ability to receive care and, as appropriate, expand that.”

Republicans introduced at least three bills that would have required parental notification for abortions. One of the proposals also would have mandated that minors inform their parents when seeking mental health services or other types of medical care, such as testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, treatment for drug or alcohol addiction and obtaining non-permanent birth control.

Thirty-six states require parental involvement in a minor’s decision to have an abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Anti-abortion advocates, boosted by the reversal of Roe v. Wade, had hoped to stir more support this year for the notification bills.

“Things take time,” Rep. Mark Anderson, R-Granby, who helped author two of the measures, told the CT Mirror in January. “We need the public to get excited about it. … That’s the only way change happens. It takes grassroots organizing.”

Proponents said they were disappointed but not surprised by the committee’s inaction on the proposals.

“We know it’s an uphill battle, particularly in the Public Health Committee, which … has been heavily filled with people who are on the other side of the sanctity of human life,” said Peter Wolfgang, executive director of The Family Institute of Connecticut. “We’re on defense. It’s going to be a while before we have a proactive victory. We know we’re at the beginning of what is going to be a very long haul, in terms of turning around the situation in Connecticut.”

Opponents of the legislation have said the requirement would cause harm to minors.

“Many come from families where such an announcement would only exacerbate an already volatile or dysfunctional family situation,” officials from the American Civil Liberties Union wrote on their website.

“Unfortunately, there are situations where family members are involved in harming, raping and making somebody pregnant,” said Sen. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor, a co-chair of the Public Health Committee. “That’s why it’s important to not require that. It may threaten someone’s well-being.”

The committee did pass several bills that would broaden access to birth control and expand services for maternal health.

One measure allows emergency contraception to be sold in vending machines on campuses of higher education institutions. Anyone who wishes to sell contraception in a vending machine but is not a licensed pharmacist must obtain a permit from the Department of Consumer Protection to do so.

Another bill enables pharmacists to prescribe emergency and hormonal contraception to people 16 and older. To qualify, pharmacists must complete a training program on prescribing contraceptives and counsel patients on what to monitor and when to seek medical attention, among other requirements.

The committee also greenlighted a proposal that helps protect health care providers who perform abortions. Under the bill, the state commissioners of public health and consumer protection could not penalize a health care provider whose license was revoked or suspended in another state for performing an abortion. It also prohibits state-licensed health care facilities from revoking a provider’s credentials or privileges based solely on their participation in reproductive health services. The measure does not prevent state officials from taking action against a physician for conduct that otherwise would be subject to discipline under Connecticut’s laws.

And committee members passed a sweeping bill that creates a certification pathway for doulas, licenses free-standing birth centers and directs state agencies to design a program for nurse home visiting to help improve access to services early in an infant’s life.

“We feel it’s very important to continue to gain ground and improve access,” Anwar said. “There is a challenge with maternal health, we can do far better in taking care of women during pregnancy and providing the appropriate level of care.”

On birth control and emergency contraception, he added: “I think there was a clear need for access. We need to recognize that a lot of the women in our state are not connected with any health care system directly or indirectly.”

The measures now head to the House and Senate, where leaders said they are likely to receive bipartisan support. The session runs through June 7.

“Whereas other states are moving [away from] a woman’s right to choose, banning medications and making sure Planned Parenthood goes out of business … we’re going to continue to be a national leader in letting women and families make decisions about what’s best for them and their bodies,” House Speaker Matthew Ritter said.

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Jenna CarlessoHealth Reporter

Jenna is CT Mirror’s Health Reporter, focusing on health access, affordability, quality, equity and disparities, social determinants of health, health system planning, infrastructure, processes, information systems, and other health policy. Before joining CT Mirror Jenna was a reporter at The Hartford Courant for 10 years, where she consistently won statewide and regional awards. Jenna has a Master of Science degree in Interactive Media from Quinnipiac University and a Bachelor or Arts degree in Journalism from Grand Valley State University.